Our carers punch above their weight, no matter their age. They are part of a growing army of unpaid carers who save the state £132 billion – a figure which has doubled since 2001. The carer population, not to be confused with paid care workers (and our local charity has been part of the national campaign to recognise their efforts too) has grown by 16.5 per cent to 6.8 million. The number of people providing 20-49 hours of care a week has increased by 43 per cent and those providing 50 hours of care or more a week has increased by 33 per cent.
That all is happening against a backdrop of cuts to public services and health and social welfare budgets.
So what key rights would help our carers? That question was put to Blackpool young adult carers to mark Carers Rights Day, a national campaign, hosted by Carers UK, to highlight issues and and raise awareness.
Our YACs placed three issues ahead of seven others shortlisted and debated at the Church Street Drop in and placed on the message board there: the right to assisted transport for personal appointments, the right to more information about the loved one for whom they are caring – and for educational professionals to look for the signs that a child or teenager may be a carer at home and offer help.
Our older carers call for the right to more support to carers in the home and – if still working – to paid care leave and greater financial support. Nearly half of carers are in work but struggle to juggle work and care. Carers UK is calling for a mandatory period of paid care leave of five to 10 days so carers can juggle caring responsibilities without putting their job and financial security on the line.
One local carer, who will take redundancy in the new year to help his wife care for their disabled son, said: “You’re made to feel guilty about taking time off but my wife is breaking her own health looking after our son. At work I’ve gone the extra mile to make up the time but now I feel I have no choice.”
Local carers charity operations chief Nigel McMurdo concluded: “Carers should have the right to quality of life, choice of how much care they provide and being at the heart of shaping future provision.”